“Nature abhors a vacuum.”
*LOL I didn’t say DON’T VACUUM!
Have you ever microwaved a plastic container without loosening the lid, then had to clean up the mess?
This happens because water heats and turns to steam. Steam takes up more space so it builds pressure till it explodes.
If you go the other way– put a lit on a hot container, then let it cool, the opposite happens. As the steam cools, less space is occupied and the container implodes upon itself.
A recent sermon used this illustration to show how, if we don’t fill the “God-shaped vacuum” in our souls, we will search in vain for something to fill it, and will invariably choose the wrong things.
Take it a step further and look at marriage and vacuums.
In an ideal world, the one that God designed, what fills up a marriage?
God Himself: He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. John 3:30
Servanthood: Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21
Love: …But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. 1 John 4:12
And speaking of love, let me bring us again to Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages. (Gifts, acts of service, physical touch, affirming words, and quality time. If you don’t know your own and your spouse’s love primary love language, you need to get on that TODAY!) Chapman’s concept of a love tank is a perfect illustration here. If we allow our own or our spouse’s love tank to get low– develop a vacuum– we create space for something else to come in and fill it up. The lower it gets, the more opportunity a negative force has to put pressure on your marriage. And have no illusion about what “negative influence” will come. Our culture offers us plenty– busyness, workaholism, pornography at our fingertips, relationships outside of marriage, hobbies, even church work! When we aren’t meeting the legitimate needs of our spouse we put our marriages in a very dangerous position for something– or someone– else to meet them.
An activity might be good, bad, or neutral, but if it pushes between us and our spouses, the devil can use it to hurt our marriages.
A situation we experienced, and I would imagine is very common, was when our children were young and I began working full-time. Mr X went to college full time and worked part time. I also began having serious allergy problems (thank you moldy old school) and recurrent sinus infections.
Needless to say, we were exhausted! I needed emotional intimacy and words of affirmation. These did not come naturally to a much younger Mr X. He needed physical intimacy, which was the last thing on my list after teaching then coming home for the second shift, often being sick on top of everything else.
In a typical male/female interaction, it’s a cycle– When a woman feels emotionally intimate, she’s more open to physical intimacy. When a man experiences physical intimacy, he’s more open to emotional intimacy. (For a much better explanation, please read Sheila Gregoire’s post.) But stop one and the whole system jams up. So I withdrew into child care, house work, and teaching. He withdrew into his school work, his construction business, and video games.
It probably was a good thing we were both so tired or else we would have been easy prey for affairs!
What could we have done, short of not working and going to school? 3 things:
1. Maintained emotional intimacy— talked about the situation and the problems and challenges it presented. We would have benefited from Auntie Em’s posts about Fruits of the Spirit in marriage, particularly patience! Acknowledging the problem, realizing that it was related to temporary situations with a light at the end of a long tunnel, having a plan to deal with it, admitting what we were missing and what we needed– all this would have helped us to deal with it in a much healthier and more productive way.
2. Maintained spiritual intimacy— This was pretty much absent from our marriage for a very long time. We were always active and regular in church, but we never prayed together or shared spiritual needs until the last few years, after our children flew the nest.
3. Compromised between realistic expectations and what we needed from one another — (of course, that could have happened only if #1 had been happening!) This is a complicated issue that requires its own post… So stay tuned.
Few people have seen really healthy marriages modeled in their childhood homes. We’ve made huge strides, but our kids missed out while they were growing up. However, countless resources are available for building healthy marriages nowadays. It’s up to us to do the hard work necessary to overcome the deficiencies we come to marriage with.
What are you struggling to overcome in your marriage?